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Fueling a passion

Menasha couple on continuous mission for mid-century pieces

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September 23, 2022

MENASHA – Greg Reinhardt, the co-owner of Mid-Century Madness in Menasha, said for him, it’s all about the hunt.

The hunt for mid-century (which includes architecture, furniture and graphic design from the middle of the 20th century) items that is.

“Part of it is the satisfaction of finding and being able to curate some unique pieces you don’t normally get to see,” he said. “You get to enjoy them while they’re here in the store, and then you see someone with a smile on their face when they walk out the door with it because they fell in love with it.”

Born and raised in Menasha, Reinhardt said it wasn’t until after he retired from a career in engineering management did the idea of the store begin to take shape.

“I was raised in Menasha and graduated from Menasha High School in 1977,” he said. “I worked construction and design until 1992. Then I was the engineering manager for an engineering and manufacturing company in Kaukauna until I retired in April 2021.”

Then by chance, more than a decade ago, Reinhardt said as he and his partner Kathy Skog, who owned an art gallery in the valley at the time, were looking for a home to purchase, they stumbled upon a mid-century ranch on Doty Island in Menasha.
Reinhardt said they wanted to furnish the house with pieces from that same era.

“Things snowballed from there,” he said. “We bought make-do pieces for the house, and then we bought replacement items and sold the original ones.”

Reinhardt said they sold those pieces in the vintage room at Skog’s art gallery, and later at an antique mall after Skog’s gallery closed.

However, he said a 10-foot-by-10-foot booth wasn’t the ideal space to sell furniture, so in September 2012, they opened Mid-Century Madness at 676 Valley Road, Menasha.

Similar passions
Reinhardt said business partners Jacob and Grace Rex came into the picture about three years ago after they moved from California to Wisconsin.

“They bought a mid-century house in the valley,” he said. “Mid-Century Madness was one of the first places they stopped. They ended up buying virtually their whole houseful of furniture from us. They are retro people themselves and have similar passions to ours.”

Reinhardt said the couples joined forces in 2021.

“They started a booth at an antique mall in the area,” he said. “It’s getting hard enough to find good quality pieces with two people to fill the shelves with this much space, so we reached out to them to see if they wanted to get out of the antique mall and come in here. They combined their stuff with our stuff in July 2021.”

On a mission
Reinhardt – who said he has always had an interest in Danish modern furniture and house design – spends a good deal of his work week searching and acquiring new pieces to showcase in the store, which is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“The rest of the week we’re chasing pieces and refinishing pieces,” he said. “We go to thrift stores, estate sales, auctions – we buy from people in-person or online. We’ve been doing this so long we have people contacting us. It’s a network we’ve developed after so many years.”

Reinhardt said personal viewing or consultation appointments are also available throughout the week.

He said the store offers anything and everything from the 1950s through the 1970s – including furniture, artwork, knickknacks, stereo consoles, records, ashtrays, end tables, sculptures, vases, glassware, barware and vintage clothing.

“We may stretch it to some Hollywood Regency stuff from the day just because it fits,” he said. “Modern furniture is typically streamlined, with tapered legs, clean Lines, no spindles. We go for solid wood pieces; we stay away from laminate. Anything coming out of the Scandinavian community in that time frame is timeless. If you can fix a designer’s name to it, that drives the value of these pieces and the desirability up.”

Reinhardt said the show “Mad Men” has contributed to the rise in popularity of mid-century items.

“That was the best and worst thing for our industry,” he said. “It created a demand for their products but also caused prices to acquire goods to increase substantially. We used to be able to find three to five pieces a week at a reasonable price, now it’s three to five pieces per month.”

Reinhardt said the shop’s clientele range from newbies getting started to regulars checking in on the ever-changing inventory.

He said Mid-Century Madness is also one of 400-plus stores between northern Illinois and Green Bay on the Vintage Shop Hop route that happens annually in March and October.

He said those looking to part with any mid-century items can contact the shop and someone from the Mid-Century Madness team will take a look.

“It’s better than things ending up in the landfill,” he said. “We make a reasonable offer for things that fit our niche.”

Reinhardt said connecting with people on a weekly basis who are as passionate about everything mid-century as he and his business partners are brings him joy.

“It warms your (heart) when you hear someone gasp when they walk in the door,” he said. “Or you have a couple who sits in here for three hours, just taking it in and test-driving furniture and looking for those iconic pieces or getting ideas.”

Reinhardt said owning and operating Mid-Century Madness has turned out to be the ideal retirement plan.

“There was no way I was going to stay home and sit in a lounge chair,” he said. “You can only recreate so often; you can only travel so much. This keeps you out of trouble.”

In addition to the store, Reinhardt said he and Skog also own a 1970s lake house in Iola, which is decorated in retro ’70s décor – including avocado and orange tones with an abundance of owls, mushrooms and frogs.

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